Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Surreality of Divorce




I AM NOW DIVORCED.....

WORDS THAT I THOUGHT I WOULD NEVER SAY, LET ALONE TYPE....

I AM NOW DIVORCED.....

Jesus with me at the foot of my cross


Yesterday I finally had my emotional breakdown in the adoration chapel during my prayer hour.  Some friends came in to say "Hi" to Jesus while out on a date......which is one of the things that he and I used to do: go to our 5pm adoration hour and then go out to dinner and/or sometimes a movie....sometimes just go grocery shopping together after we spent time praying to God......and after they left it hit me that I would never have a date like that again.....and in one of those rare occurrences during my prayer hour there was no one else in the adoration chapel and I began to sob......begging God to take this cross away from me.....to let me wake up from this nightmare and to let my life go back to the way it once was......maybe we could compromise.....maybe Jason could still have had an affair or have stolen from the store, but just NOT have hurt our kids or have any child pornography???  At the start of the next adoration hour I was found still kneeling on the floor and another friend knelt next to me, rubbing my back and holding me, just listening to me sob and beg God to take this cross away-to lift my burden.  After approximately another fifteen minutes I tried to stop crying-having looked at the clock and realizing that I needed to get home to my kids.  I guess I mentioned having to go buy food for supper and the friend offered to go buy us supper so that I could have more time to calm down and to spend in prayer.  After she left I tried to move and then realized that I had lost all feeling in my legs so I managed to crawl back to my purse and laid my head on it until someone else came in to say "Hi" to God at which point I sat up and just sat on the floor looking up at Jesus and I felt His unending love and peace flood my soul.  He knew this cross before I was ever born-before I ever married Jason....He saw Jason's sins (and my own) in the Garden of Gethsemane and He still chose to get on that cross and die for us....He died for my kids.......we will survive what seems unbearable to me right now........

Yet today still felt like a dream.  Jason was brought over from the jail and here I am talking to my husband in an orange jump suit and handcuffs about what we were both agreeing to for the divorce in front of a sheriff deputy and my lawyer.  With the verbal agreement in place the lawyer goes to the judge to ask to make it a "final divorce proceeding."  We then go into the court and everything is stated for the court record by the lawyer and then we go up one at a time to the stand and answer "yes" to all the questions being asked to us-that we were both of sound mind and knew what we were agreeing to it....then with the sound of a gavel in less time than what it took to say our wedding vows the last nine years were dissolved......we were no longer married due to "incompatibility".......Jason was led away to go back to the jail and after briefly talking to my lawyer there I am all alone......completely a single mom with sole custody of five children and the hope and prayer to God that He is the God of the widow and orphans, which is what we basically are now since Jason will be in jail for a very very long time for the crimes he committed.

SURREAL......JUST SO SURREAL.....TWO DAYS BEFORE WHAT WOULD HAVE BEEN MY 9TH WEDDING ANNIVERSARY I AM DIVORCED......

My St. Martha candle

My original patron saint from when I came into the Catholic Church is St. Martha-and her feast day is on July 29th....I have been praying for her intercession as well each night leading up to what would have been our anniversary for we were married on her feast day. She is the patron saint of servants. When I was inducted into the National Honor Society over twenty years ago I really took seriously what candle I wanted to light and I chose “service” as the guiding light for my life.....whenever I wonder about which path to follow I always end up choosing which path would serve God best through my own service.

Yet, I have peace....I know that somehow this is all works for God's good.....that there is a reason for all this pain in God's master design......and now I know that my children are safe from him especially since the youngest do not understand what is going on.

Infant Jesus Child of Prague Statue at St. Mary's in Martins Ferry, OH


When I went to the Infant Jesus Child of Prague Novena Prayer Service tonight I realized that it was the 4th novena service which means that we are half way done....this also means that hopefully all the legal paperwork to make everything final for the divorce will be completed before the end of the novena. Earlier this month when I was driving home from the novena one of my kids took this picture of a double rainbow-not the best, but we were driving at sixty miles per hour and it was on a cell phone.....you can faintly see the second rainbow in this picture.....a rainbow, God's promise to us all.

Faint Double Rainbow over Ohio River


Last week I managed to spend some time alone at Lake Erie. While driving home I had grabbed a “not so detailed map” at a rest stop.....I made some wrong turns since my gps wasn't working, so I didn't end up at the original beach I wanted to find. I ended up at East Beach in Loraine, Ohio and spent two hours sitting on the beach, journaling and just praying......letting the endless waves and the sunset start to heal my bruised soul. I ended up discovering this beautiful rose garden and took this picture of the American flag while listening to the Loraine County community choir and band perform “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Sometimes God's wrong turns are just what we need in life.

East Beach Rose Garden


May you all experience the scary sweetness of new beginnings especially those that begin when something old fades away with the setting sun........



Always,

Stephanie 


Monday, July 13, 2015

July Go FundMe Update



Infant Child Jesus of Prague

My July Go FundMe Update


On July 1st, 2015 my small world was rocked again when Jason was arrested and charged with first degree charges of harm against one of his own children.  My soul felt like it was spinning out of control for a full week.  It wasn't until after I got through grand jury indictment testimony that I began to feel God's peace again.  At times it feels like I am living in a really long nightmare that I can't wake up from, but unfortunately it is my real life.

I have continued to be fully cooperating with the investigation.  Jason is back in jail where he should remain for a very, very long time.  There is no way he can possibly explain these new charges to me.  Again, hopefully with time God's peace will fill this "unexplainable" hole of "why?" that I can't comprehend.  Ohio's Victim Assistance Program is a reimbursement program so for counseling we are starting with just me and the two children that we have proof were hurt.  (Jason's mom's counseling is being completed on her own.)  We will add the three other children as we can afford to in the future or if the situation changes and the counselors decide that we have to start counseling immediately.

Before I go on about personal matters, one of my best friends has reminded me that people can't help me unless I ask for help.  So again, besides begging for prayers, I come asking for financial help if you can do so.  The appeal in May has brought in over $4, 000 blessed dollars.  

Half of that money was used to pay half of May's unpaid bills.  The other half was used to purchase a new vehicle for myself since the Yukon had once again broken down.  The repair estimate was over $2, 000 for a vehicle worth between only $4, 000-$5,000.  It took several people urging me to take the plunge, but I managed to use a corporate employee program to buy a new 2015 Mitsubishi Outlander.  Here I am right after the car was delivered to me:


Stephanie with her 2015 Mitsubishi Outlander


The UPS Store franchise has a special deal with Mitsubishi and they were also willing to take the black truck as a trade in even though it was 11 years old for this Mitsubishi Outlander. I was shaking as I wrote the check for the down payment because I am trusting in God that I will be able to pay for this vehicle each month. The dealership put a trailer hitch on for me and will add my luggage rack that is on back order in the future. A friend delivered the truck to me since the dealership closed before my store. Two minutes after this picture was taken I was crying because I feel unworthy to have a new truck. I have always driven used vehicles. This truck costs more than my undergrad education (even though it was on a full ride scholarship, but if I had to have paid for it this truck costs more than that.) But it can hold all of us for those times I have all 5 kids with me and it will save on gas and hopefully will have minimal repairs for the next 6-10 years. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!!! The children all love it and kept saying how awesome and beautiful it was when I took them for a bedtime car ride on that first night we got it.


We still need to raise money to change over our dual wood/coal furnace to a propane furnace and to finish installing duct work in most of the house since Jason had only completed duct work to two rooms last winter.  (We have two other wood stoves and some really old electrical wall heaters.)  I need to purchase a large propane tank for the fuel as well.  There are other repairs that still need to be made on the house.  I have been selling many personal items, but just had to use most of that money to pay property tax bills for the past two years that Jason said he paid, but never paid.  He instead lied and used the money for his hidden sin life.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all of you who have donated money or shared this post with others asking them for prayers and money.  I find that words are so inadequate to express my thankfulness.  Your prayers and generosity have kept the children and I going.  I thank you ahead of time if any of you would be so kind as to donate again.  I still have the second half of May's bills to pay off so we are hoping to raise at least $10, 000 more dollars, but $20, 000 is what we really still need to get caught up on everything.


Personal Update:


God's Plans for My Life

Just as when Chris died, there have been so many moments where I now see God's hands in all these events:

Our St. Joseph cake made by Aubrey's Bakery for our annual dinner: we fed 79 people this past March.


As many of you know I have a strong devotion to St. Joseph.  In fact I have blogged about our annual St. Joseph Altar dinner that we give every March in the past.  Jason was first arrested on May 1st, which is the feast day of "St. Joseph the Worker."  May is also the month of Our Lady St. Mary.  (Several different friends pointed this out to me a few days after he was arrested.)  Jason not only helped me honor St. Joseph with preparing the large St. Joseph meals, but he had of his own volition written a prayer and vow to St. Joseph to take care of me and his stepchildren at our wedding as St. Joseph took care of St. Mary and Jesus.  We now know he was stealing from our business, which is the exact opposite of being like "St. Joseph the Worker."  He also said honored Mary under the title "Our Lady of Victory."

This past winter Jason kept saying how he wanted to sell our rental duplex, that it was too stressful for him to maintain (even as he had moved his mistress into it and was paying her bills there.)  I had bought a statue of St. Joseph to put inside the duplex (NOT to be buried in the ground as some people do).  He never took the statue there, so in April I pushed it into his hands saying you can't ask St. Joseph to intercede for the selling of the duplex if you don't take St. Joseph to the house for it to sell.  So, he ACTUALLY took the statue of St. Joseph to the duplex, but didn't put it in the empty unit.  He actually took St. Joseph into where the mistress lived.  Eight days after the two of them were arrested, my friends helped me search the unit where she lived (that I am the landlord of) so that we could hand over her electronic devices to the sheriff and we found St. Joseph hidden in a kitchen cupboard.   St. Joseph is known as THE TERROR OF DEMONS.  No wonder they were thankfully finally caught by the Sheriff due to an anonymous tip.  YOU DON'T MESS WITH ST.  JOSEPH.  Jason actually took the statue of one my patron saints-THE SAINT THAT HE HAD VOWED TO BE LIKE-into the place where he was committing adultery.

A few days later, a large box arrived at the store as I left to go to his bond hearing (where the bond was lowered.)  The next day one of the employees reminded me that the large box sitting in the store was mine.  Inside it was a statue of the Holy Family THAT I HAD ORDERED BACK IN FEBRUARY FOR OUR ST. JOSEPH ALTAR DINNER.  The statue arrived three months later on the day of Jason's bond hearing as one more reminder from God that St. Joseph is interceding for me and the children in heaven.  It comforted me so much that I am not even annoyed about how long it took it to arrive.  Obviously it came right on time!!!

Two days later I broke down sobbing in our store and an hour later the customer that was in the store when I started crying brought in beautiful yellow roses for me with a kind note.  A friend later pointed out to me that it was the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima.  Our lady is called "the mystical rose"-what an amazing gift to receive from heaven brought to me by a customer whose heart was moved by the sobs I couldn't control from the back of the store and whose sounds she could hear in the front of our store.  Thousands of people saw the "sun dance in the sky" at one of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima, so yellow roses really were appropriate that day!

Then last week as I sat down next to my mother-in-law at the preliminary hearing where the prosecutor had to admit evidence of first degree rape, Debbie leaned over and whispered, "It's the feast of St. Maria Goretti."  Oh, the irony of it all.  St. Maria Goretti was murdered as she resisted unwanted sexual advances.  She forgave her attacker as she laid in agony dying from fourteen stab wounds.  Her murderer later converted in part due to her act of forgiveness as she died and the forgiveness her mother extended to him.  Yet one more reminder from God that His protecting hand is in all of this and for me to continue to pray for Jason's soul and that of his mistress' soul every day.  The past few weeks I have really truly been struggling with forgiveness.  I can't believe he hurt our beautiful kids. 

That day was also the start of the Novena to the Infant Child Jesus of Prague down in Martins Ferry that I try to attend annually.  We prayed to Jesus under that title for a safe delivery of our four year old and we have prayed many times to Jesus under that title for financial needs.  I told the organizer of the event last week that I was greatly comforted that Jason's preliminary trial had been held on that first day of the novena and she replied that she would be adding "praying for his soul" to her own novena prayers.  I am lifting up everyone who has prayed for us, given financially, helped with babysitting and house/lawn repairs-all of your personal intentions are being prayed for by me during this nine week novena.  The kids and I would not be surviving half as well as we have been without all the love and support we have received these past few months.  I can't even begin to give back to all of you what you have given to me, but I can pray.  So many miracles have been given when Jesus has been honored and prayed to under the title of "the infant Jesus."  So, I offer up my prayers and sufferings for all of you-may you receive God's peace within your own lives.  (If any of you would like to attend the novena it is at 7pm every Monday night at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Martins Ferry, Ohio until the end of August.  The beautiful prayer service lasts just one hour.)  

I have been overwhelmed by all the beautiful messages, cards, letters, gift cards, gifts of work around our house and other presents that the children and I have received, especially the ones from complete strangers.  A protestant church in a neighboring town dropped off a 4th of July care package.  Another customer brought in a basket of beautiful stuffed animals that my girls just love playing with.  I tear up just thinking of all these blessings we have received.  Last month two of the kids had birthdays and we have been fighting a weird stomach virus.  We seem to be going through round two of it again.  Thankfully God has protected me so far from the illness (but extra protection prayers for my continued good health would be greatly appreciated!)

We are doing our best to keep moving forward.  Life goes on even though I would like it to reverse back to before all this evil happened.  My littles will randomly say to people, "My daddy is in jail."  That is their new normal.  I just try to roll with it and try to read people's faces for how to reply or intercede.  Most of the time the littles just say that and then keep talking or run off and play.  I don't want to "hush them" or "shame them into silence"--obviously it's what is still on their mind and they need to get it out.  My big kids are still running off to all their teenage activities.  They have both been my rocks: working, helping with the littles, cleaning the house, doing yard work...making me laugh.....just being the awesome kids that they are.  They haven't complained to me once even though their lives have been turned upside down.  Once again I find that I get out of bed each morning because I have five kids depending on me (plus my employees of course-but it's mostly my kiddos.)
There was not any contact between Jason and the kids when he was out of jail for those few weeks.  Even though it would probably have helped my littles to hear his voice on the phone or to have a letter written to them, there has been absolutely no contact between him and the children.  Just as when Chris died and there was no body to bury for a funeral, Jason went to work one day and never returned: he has just vanished from their lives, but yet the littles are haunted because they can't understand why they can't talk to him on the phone or write letters back and forth.  I keep telling them that their daddy is sick and this is what needs to happen for him to get better.

Jason will have his indictment hearing this week and then most likely not much will happen for several months.  After that hearing then all "the lawyer games" will begin where both the defense and the prosecutor will file different motions.  Justice will take time to be served, but it's already being served since neither he nor the other woman can hurt anymore children in jail.  Please pray that I am able to get more things sold quickly so that I can complete the repairs to the duplex so that it can be rented no later than September or October.  I am so blessed by the good neighbors that live around  the duplex.  They have been keeping an eye on things for me and that can never be repaid either.

Thank you to all of you who have kept shipping at our store and letting us serve all your document copying needs.  Hopefully in a short while the divorce will be complete.  Thank you for all who have been spreading the word to still use our store for shipping and for copying.  I greatly appreciate everyone who has been telling others that I now run the store and that I have five kids to feed.  May God bless and keep you forever!!!!


May you all have a blessed July and hopefully have some sweetness of summer relaxation in your plans!!!

Always,

Stephanie




Monday, May 25, 2015

My Go FundMe Account

My Go FundMe Account

Updated 5/27/15  See bottom of post



So, this post is the most humbling thing I have ever written in my entire life.

Briefly, here are the facts for the past three weeks of my life (and know that I am leaving out A LOT of messy details of everything that happened in between.)

On Friday, May 1st my "soon to be ex-husband" and an employee were arrested for crimes against children, some of those children were my own.

It turns out that my husband and the employee (who started as one of our personal babysitters two years ago) were also having an affair.

It also turns out that besides paying payroll to said employee that she was living in our rental duplex so I was also paying all of her personal bills (like cable and internet.  I don't even have cable at home.)  Other people thought I knew she was living there and that I was just that benevolent of a person to let a part time employee live somewhere for free.

My children were placed in protective care for the weekend since it was 7pm at night when the sheriff's office completed my questioning and they did not have time to interview the children.  The children were split into three different groups for where they stayed for the weekend.  Interviews were completed on the following Monday and the children were thankfully returned to me.  The youngest children are still acting out from this separation.  For instance one of the children who was placed with a relative has started biting her siblings and myself even though she was not a biter before that weekend.

I went to the bank on Saturday morning only to discover that our business account was overdrawn by a thousand dollars and we have thousands of dollars of unpaid bills that should have been paid.

Since May 1st I have worked non-stop.  My employees have worked non-stop.  There is one employee in general that went above and beyond the call of duty and is the reason why multiple print orders were completed after hours.  There was also a former employee that has come in three different times and worked after hours.  Both of these employees forever have my undying love and prayers.  (I am thankful for the other employees too, but these ones are extra special.)  May is "mini-Christmas" for our store.  The local university has their graduation so graduates are shipping stuff home that they can't fit in their cars or on the airplane.  We also do a lot of printing for graduation parties, wedding showers, etc.  Usually the money made in this month gets saved to help us through the inevitable slow down of summer when everyone goes on vacation and does less printing and shipping.  Instead I have paid all the current bills, payroll and half of our unpaid bill debt.  Let me repeat that:  My store is solvent.  I WILL NOT BE CLOSING MY STORE.  I WILL NOT BE FILING FOR BANKRUPTCY.  Again, I have paid all current bills, payroll and half of the unpaid bill store debt in three weeks.  I am working with the best accounting firm in town and have a plan for paying off the rest of the unpaid debt over the next few months.  MY STORE IS OPEN FOR BUSINESS.

During the first week of May (besides it being the busiest week of the entire year for us outside of the 6 weeks of shipping starting November 15th of each year), I ran from legal meetings to bank meetings back to the store and filing for my divorce.  I also completed my own personal search warrants on our store, our house, the rental duplex and the vehicle that my husband drove.  LET ME REPEAT THAT FOR YOU:  I COMPLETED SEARCH WARRANTS, NOT THE SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT.  NOT A SINGLE SEARCH WARRANT WAS ISSUED IN THIS CASE.  PLEASE REMEMBER THAT FOR FUTURE ELECTIONS.  NOT A SINGLE SEARCH WARRANT WAS ISSUED IN A CASE WHERE THERE WAS CELL PHONE PROOF OF CHILD PORNOGRAPHY.  I have turned over three laptops, a tablet, a computer network capable playstation and our personal storage device that all of my personal pictures for the past year had just been downloaded on.  So if any information is found besides what was discovered on the husband and mistress' cell phones IT WILL BECAUSE I WILLINGLY TURNED OVER COMPUTERS to help keep those two people in jail.  I went back in and gave two more statements with proof for why I considered my husband a flight risk if he made bail.  My mother-in-law also made a second statement.  BOTH OF US TRIED OUR BEST TO KEEP HIM IN JAIL.

Now I know this blog post is getting long so if you don't read anything else, just read this last paragraph.  I have dear friends who have convinced me to ask the world for help financially.  Not in paying the store bills, but for helping to pay for personal things for the kids and I.  I used the last of my savings to pay for my divorce and to correct the store's finances.  I have not paid any of my personal May bills.  Both our vehicles have been in the shop this month.  They are both over ten years old.  My mother-in-law is going to become the grandmother nanny and her vehicle is twenty-three years old.  I need to switch from a wood furnace to a propane furnace for heat this coming winter.  There are other things that really need to be fixed asap, but all those small things add up.  I have always been the one to reach into my purse and hand someone at least a $20 bill and now I am here having to ask the world to please help me get through the next few months until I get back on my feet.  If you can find it in your heart to give a small amount and then ask your family and friends to help too I would be so grateful.  You will forever be in my prayers.  Please go to this link and make a donation.

More information that I want to give to correct the rumor mill:

All that being said above, my husband's bail was lowered due to the fact that they did not have any proof of anything besides fourth degree and fifth degree charges when it came to him.  I was so angry as I drove home that night.  I could feel the anger pulsing in my body and I was terrified to go home.  I don't ever want to take my fear and anger out on my children.  So I prayed to God......every day since that day I pray for God to take all the anger away so my kids don't get hurt more.  I don't want to become one of those angry bitter people that you meet somewhere and you walk away wondering, "What the hell happened to that person?"  I want to live my life with joy and love.  And that is what has happened.  My husband made bail like I knew he would, but every time I interact with him I try to approach him with love.  I will admit that I have called him to his face a few bad names a couple of times though, but he has taken it.  We are working on having a quick and amicable divorce.  The earliest date that we could get for our first divorce hearing is June 1st, which is exactly one month from when he was arrested.

I guess people are starting to say that I am suffering from Stockholm Syndrome?  Ummm, okay....I don't get that one at all since I am divorcing him....People are putting what they think they would do and what they think I should do in the works here.  I understand that other people are rightly hurt and angry and afraid for me.  I also understand that I am being called to a much higher level of striving for sainthood than other people within my personal circle.  While you may not understand why I can stand to be in his presence, the fact of the matter is, I can.  My first and number one goal is my children.  In order to provide for their future I need to learn as much as possible (passwords, how to run new store machines, owner only information like filing corporate reports, etc) and Jason is the person to teach that to me before he goes back to jail.  Why on earth would I sit on the phone for hours after a 12 hour day trying to get someone from corporate to teach me something when my husband can teach me how to file a royalty report in half an hour and I can head home to my children that I haven't seen yet and it's 7:30pm at night?  I am always going to put the future of my children ahead of everyone else in the world.  You don't have to like it, you don't have to understand it, but stop trying to place your own personal issues on me.  Jason is no longer at our store during working hours.  He will only be there after hours if I need him to teach me how to do something.  We are working on trying to figure out a set date so that even if he is not in jail yet, we have a cut off date for when there will be no contact whatsoever when it comes to our store.  The problem is that I don't know what I don't know until something happens.  For instance, I just said that to a friend when literally the next moment an employee came around carrying a really large deer head that someone wanted to ship to Florida.  I have never packed a deer head in 7 years.  Jason always completed that type of shipment even if I was in the store.  But I am making a list and calling people and figuring it out everyday and we have completed all the tasks customers have asked us to do for the past three weeks.  I ask any of you that own businesses the following question: would your spouse be able to walk in and run your business if something happened to you?  99% of you would have to say "no" that question.  Thankfully with the best employees one could ask for and some help from Jason with information and training I have been able to rise to the occasion and plan on being fully knowledgable within two months of all these tragic events occurring.  That in itself is a miracle from God.

Yes, I went shopping with the man the day after he got out of jail.  His mistress had trashed the duplex apartment to the point that the lowest bid to clean the place was $500.  Let me repeat that again:  IT WAS GOING TO COST $500 TO CLEAN HER FILTH.  I wasn't going to just hand Jason cash or our debit cards to buy stuff so I went to the store to buy cleaning supplies and some food and water for him.  If you see us together in the future I don't expect you to make eye contact or acknowledge us if we are together.  I completely understand.  It's when I am by myself or you are in my store and won't look at me that I get hurt.  But anyways, I then went to a local church to get holy water to put on myself and Jason before we entered that duplex again.  I arranged for a priest to come bless the place the next day and to hear Jason's confession.  Jason has cleaned the duplex apartment.  He has begun repairs (like broken windows and painting) so that I can rent it out to pay for our children going to private school in the fall.  So, if you see things for sale, it's not to support him.  It's to support me and the kids.  The duplex has serious repairs that need to be made, but those bills are NOT included in the Go FundMe campaign.  I am paying for those by selling personal stuff just like I sold personal stuff to pay for the divorce.

I allowed a friend and my mother-in-law to throw out all Jason's clothes the weekend that my children were gone.  The first thing that the kids asked for after the first initial sobbing event when I told them that their daddy was in jail and they could not see him again was his clothes.  They wanted to sleep in his shirts and I couldn't give them a shirt because we had gotten rid of his clothes and my heart broke again for them and for me.  So, yes, I gave him some money to go to goodwill and buy clothes since he only had one set of clothes.  Plus, I don't want to be around a smelly person when I interact with him.  This is the kind of thing we are suppose to do as Christians.  Feed the hungry, clothe those who don't have clothes and frankly I don't have the money to buy him out of our store and properties, so please stop passing your judgments on me.  He's eating ramen noodles and drinking water and if I have to pay those small bills for a few months in order to get my store and houses in my name only then that is what I am going to do.  By the way the cable and internet bill for the duplex was cancelled before he was even after jail.

I have now figured out where all the money went from the store, but that information is between Jason and I and God.  It's all gone.  There is none hidden for Jason to flee the country.  All the rest of you can find out where it went on judgment day, because I am sorry, but I am at the point where I need to regain some privacy.  The most tragic events of my life (Chris' death) and now this betrayal beyond betrayal are out there not only for my local community to pass judgment on, but for the entire social media world to pass judgment on, and I am now trying to regain my privacy.  Imagine the worst thing your spouse has ever done, the worst pain you have ever experienced: heartbreak, betrayal, seeing your kids in pain, but instead of it just being within yourself or your small family or your small circle of friends, it's being known to the entire world.  My pain is out there for everyone to pass judgment on and I can't do a single thing to stop it.  All I can do is get up each morning and go to work and come home to hug and love my kids.

As for those of you who don't want to do business with our store or buy things I have for sale because of Jason then just remember who gets hurt by those actions:




See that picture above?  I know that Jason used to be the face of that business, but the kids and I are now the face of that business.  I have five kids and will now have 4-6 employees at a time to provide for since I now have to have a nanny and more employees so that eventually maybe I can only work Monday-Friday 8am-5pm and have my Saturdays off again.  I also have to pay for private school, and will be applying for scholarships, but we all know even if they get a full ride there are always small things like field trips, etc not covered by scholarships.   Please remember that it will be the kids and I hurt, not Jason, if you choose to do business elsewhere.

I can't control where people ship or make copies at.  We have been open for seven years and I have lost count of the number of times people have said, "Oh good.  I can ship with you again.  I didn't like this employee or that employee."  Sometimes people think the price is too high or that I looked at them wrong when really I was trying to remember if I turned on the crock pot before I left the house.  All I can do is pray to God for his mercy and help because everything depends on Him and then work as if everything depends on me.  I thank you for your past support, your continued support and your future support for our business.  I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your past prayers, your present prayers and your future prayers.

My family and I will be in therapy for years over what has happened.  In fact, I will probably be in therapy even longer because one store crisis happened this week while I was at a therapy session and then another massive crisis happened while I actually tried to take a lunch hour and drove home to check on a sick child.  I may never leave my store again.  I'm not sure if I will ever fully trust another living human being again.  But I know this, I choose love.  What my husband and that woman did were horrible crimes that they need to make restitution for by going to jail.  Jason has rightly lost everything he once held dear.  Unfortunately there is no explanation that he could ever give that will explain the unexplainable for these actions.  I have to give that to God and hope that eventually God's peace will fill that hole in my heart and soul.

I ask you to pray for him and that other woman.  Pray that their souls are not lost and that they don't commit suicide.  Pray for the children that were hurt by their actual crimes and for all my children who lost their daddy.  Pray for that other woman's family and friends who have been hurt by these actions.  Pray for me.  Pray that I can continue to live in God's grace each day.  Pray that I can heal and begin to move forward and that I can take up my new cross of being a single mother and business woman each day.  Pray for my family and friends and our community that has been so hurt by these actions.  Just know this, outside of the children involved I am the person who was hurt the most.  I was betrayed by my husband and best friend who was suppose to protect me and the children with his very life.  I was betrayed by a babysitter who became an employee.  I have been betrayed by people who knew things and never said anything.  There are other things that have happened that I have not mentioned that have added more pain and another cross.  But I still choose love.  I have made mistakes these past few weeks.  I will make some in the future because I am only human.  But I am trying each day to be the best Christian I can be, to be the best mother I can be.  Every decision I make is based on what is going to help my kids in the long run.  Again, I choose love.  The only way I can deal with Jason is with love even as I divorce him and we go our separate ways in order to protect the children.  I want his soul in heaven.  I take that wedding vow seriously even after everything that has happened.

This past week I have been anchored by three moments.  One was when a VIP customer whose name I knew, but I had never met, came in to do a shipment and as she left told me that I was part of her family now.  Another box customer who I had never met asked me to tell him the story about why I chose and pushed opening this particular franchise.  When I told him the whole story (which is another long blog post) and I got to the part where I wanted to provide a service where repeat customers are greeted by name,  he stopped me and said, "You've done that.  When I come in here I am always greeted by your employees and I can tell they care about me."  Then the very last customer on Saturday (and this was after a really long week that had some bad crap happen in it) suddenly stopped and said, "You have God's peace about you.  I don't know you, but I can sense God's peace coming out of you."  Please pray that continues.  Pray that even on my worst days (which I am sure many more are coming) that I can cling to God and people can feel His love and peace radiating out of me.  Pray that I carry this nightmare cross well and that I fight the good fight.

Thank you again for all your love and support.  Thank you for letting me share my story.  Please go donate if you can.  Please share this blog post with your friends and family so maybe they can at least pray for us even if they can't donate.   If I suddenly pop into your mind when you are doing something then please pray.  I am not sure when I will be able to blog again.  Today just happened because the store is closed in observation of Memorial Day.
Pray for all those we honor on Memorial Day, including my first husband, Lt. Christopher T. Starkweather.

May you all know the sweetness of God's peace in your hardest times,

Stephanie

Update 5/27/15:

"If I were to try to read, much less answer, all the attacks made on me, this shop might as well be closed for any other business. I do the very best I know how - the very best I can; and I mean to keep doing so until the end. If the end brings me out all right, what's said against me won't amount to anything. If the end brings me out wrong, ten angels swearing I was right would make no difference."

Abraham Lincoln


So that above quote is my life right now.  I am adding the following updates only because I was asked to do so by my marketing team.  I am NOT planning on addressing any other future rumors because I do NOT have the time.  I am working 12-15 hour days Monday-Friday and over 8 hours on Saturdays.  Any precious free time I get I am trying to desperately spend with my children and not writing on a computer.

1.  My children have NO contact with their father.  The only person who has contact with him is ME.  There is a court order in place of no contact with my children or any children.  If you didn't notice from what was posted above I have been fully cooperating with the police investigation and actually turning over more information than what they have asked for.  I do not want to do anything to jeopardize the investigation or my children's lives.  So let me repeat that: there has NOT been any contact with their father that would violate the court order.

 2.  Supposedly I was seen at a movie with Jason?  Ummmmm.....no.  Haven't been to the movies with him since our last date in April.  If you didn't notice from the above paragraph I am WORKING SIX DAYS A WEEK.

Okay, the above two points are what they wanted me to say.  These last few paragraphs are from ME because I DO NOT HAVE TIME to address rumors.  I have a store to run.  I have 5 kids who desperately want to see me each day.  Last Thursday night which is when I think the rumor says I supposedly went to a movie, I worked at the store until 10pm.  I had left at 7am in the morning and I got home at 10:30pm at night and left by 7am the next morning.  I didn't see my kids.  Let me repeat that:  I didn't get to see my kids that day.
.....I.....DID......NOT......SEE......MY......KIDS.......THAT.......DAY.


But even if I had decided to go out to dinner or meet Jason for coffee somewhere public THAT IS WHAT CIVILIZED PEOPLE DO WHEN THEY GET DIVORCED.  You meet in public places to help keep things civil to discuss things.  Right now I am not planning on being anywhere in public with Jason but if I do decide to meet him somewhere because I don't want to be alone with him, either now or in the future after he serves his jail time, than that is between us.  It's no one's business besides mine and his.  If I decide to try to give my brain a rest and go to a movie, either with my kids or by myself or with a friend, that is my choice (and will be completed with my personal money, not fundraised money.)  My life kind of sucks right now, but it's going to get better.  But I'm not going to live my life in fear of how the gossip is going to get spun.  Frankly, I can only do so much to try not to cause "any scandal" but obviously even if I don't do anything right now besides work scandal and rumors are being created by someone.  All I can do is try to live my life to honor God even if it means getting a divorce in order to protect my children.

I pray you all have a blessed day.  I sign off to leave for work now.

God's blessings,

Stephanie

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Spring 2014 TCA Kids Consignment Sale

Wall of Books at TCA Kids Consignment Sale:)
This sight makes my heart smile!


Happy Easter Everyone!

Life has been crazy busy with all the spring activities and some "end of the school year" things beginning.

My favorite spring sale starts today:

The TCA Kids Consignment Sale begins today!!!

Baby Items


This sale has everything one could ask for:

Stroller, high chairs, car seat bases

Bags, Shoes are in the laundry baskets on right side of picture
Boys clothes lining the walls in back and to the right

Toys, Toys and More Toys
Clothes, Clothes and More Clothes
Kids Furniture is there in the back


40% of the Sales go towards the Scholarship Fund for students to attend the Tri-State Christian Academy.  So, when I am doing my "tithing shopping" I remember that if an item has been priced by a consignor for $2 then the school gets 80 cents for the item and the consignor gets $1.20.  I get great deals to provide my kids with shoes, clothes, toys, future birthday and Christmas presents and at the same time I get to help local kids get a great Christian education.  I also get to help other local families earn some money to help provide for their families.  It doesn't get more "shop local" then going to this consignment sale!


My pile of clothes for the 3 littles

I joke all the time that God was being "economical" when He blessed us with three more girls after Jessie.  At the same time though clothes and shoes do wear out especially when the kids stay skinny the way mine have.  Jessie has even put on a pair of Katie's pants as shorts this year when laundry hadn't been done.  Seriously, at age 13 she can still fit into her sister's size 6!

My littles each have their own personality and style when it comes to clothes so I try to find a few things for Anna and Libby each year to add to their "hand me down" wardrobe from Jessie and Katie.  Jessie's style is summarized as "Classical Artistic" so if any clothes survive her wearing them for several years we have the "basics" to build on for the 3 littles.

Here are some of the "new to us" clothes I bought the littles at the pre-sale shopping event for consignors this week:

Katie is "Cowgirl Romantic."  She loves soft flowing fabric, but also loves horses and cowgirl clothes.


Katie wearing pink leggings with horses

Anna is our "funky hippy" girl:


Anna wearing leopard print with a new pair of pink leggings


Libby is our "Wildstyle" child.  She finds the brightest and craziest clothes that she can find and put her outfits together.  Many times she layers skirts under her dresses.

Libby wearing a silk sun dress with pink sandals we got for $2 at the sale.


This morning we began Day 2 of new outfits:


Katie wearing new embroidered jeans with a new cowgirl shirt and vest combo.
Libby is holding a Rapunzel doll that Jessie bought for her at the sale.
The play hat and pink dress we already owned, but I have bought many costume outfits over the last six years at the sale.
Libby is again wearing the pink sandals.

Anna didn't want to wake-up for pictures, but here she is curled up on my lap wearing a new funky flannel nightgown that I bought for her:

Anna's soft reindeer flannel nightgown


So, head on out to the TCA Kids Consignment Sale!  Bring your laundry baskets and rubber made containers to hold your stuff though they have laundry baskets you can use if you forget.  Come ready to spend some serious time shopping for your families needs!

Here's Another Post I wrote about a past sale.  (Note though: The Fall Sale has been moved back to September.  So their sales are April and September every year.)

Fall Sale 2013

Disclaimer: I will make some money if you happen by chance to buy one of my few items out of the thousands of clothes, books, toys, etc at this sale.  I am not disclosing my consignment number though.  All opinions expressed in this blog post are my own-not getting paid for that or for making this blog post!  Did this on my own to rave about this awesome sale!

May you have feel the sweetness of spring,


Stephanie

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

A Cold Start to Lent




Joey, Katie, Anna and Libby playing in January snow


Lent has once again started and I find not much has seemed to change since the start of last Lent: fighting off illness colds, vehicle repairs, broken pipes and washing machine from the extreme cold, and yes, the exhaustion of winter.  Been praying for all you Boston and Northeast people-so much snow!!  Thankfully we've had "just enough" snow to keep things white and pretty, but this cold-oh, I could do without the cold!  I may end up a southern snow bird some day!

Jason and I now have another future summer project.  We bought our house in 2007 and the people who owned if from the 1990's-2007 had been "amused" that the people that had owned the house in the 1970-1990's had the washing machine and dryer in the main foyer.  They were very proud of the gorgeous remodeling they had done to bring the main foyer back to it's original grandeur.  And don't get me wrong, it's one of the reasons why we bought they house, but.....well, now that we've lived here for the past almost nine years we know why the washing machine was there: It's too cold in the unheated garage for the washing machine to be out there when it is below zero!!!  We have had the pipes freeze and break at least 4 of the 9 winters we have lived here.  So, we are trying to decide how to fit a "laundry room" into a traditional farm house that doesn't have closets or a mud room or a traditional basement.  I think I may have to give up the one coat closet this house contains.  We're also trying to figure out how we can add insulation around/in two brick walls since pipes keep freezing on outside walls....it's frustrating and just one more thing to overcome (and of course NOT what I had listed originally as summer priority project.)  But a working laundry room for 7 people in the dead of winter does take priority over all other things.  We have only survived laundry wise for the past three months since Debbie lives just across the road and is willing to keep her washing machine running with our mountain of laundry.  Prior to this cold snap the washing machine broke several times.  I just realized that it's actually now 10 years old-I think it may be at the end of it's lifespan since they don't make appliances to last many years or to put up with the many work loads a large family makes, weather it is laundry wise or dishes wise.

I reread the my Lent post from last year and realized that I had also been fighting that "we're not doing enough/need to "spice up" home schooling fever" again".....I had been "hitting up" the kids about joining youth groups again, and both teens replied, "I'd really just like to do religion with dad."  Hmmm....pause.....so why am I trying to encourage the kids to add one more thing to a busy calendar or to be away from home more when Joey is already a freshman in high school???  Okay, so we just have to "make sure" that "religion class" happens each week.  We started Father Corapi's Catechism dvd series.  Some pretty deep stuff there.

We wrote out our Lent goals this past Sunday since Byzantine Lent started the next day and here is what the family decided:



Sorry the picture is off center-just realized that, but doesn't it seem more "real life" that way?  Since this blog has never been about perfection, I think it sums things up appropriately.  We're just doing our best each day trying to get ourselves and our children to heaven.  From our list, you can tell that we're not really Catholics that "give up" stuff for Lent.  The first Lent after I became Catholic a priest at Offutt Air Force Base really made an impression on me when he preached that the focus of Lent should be about "doing more."  Jason does give up all chocolate for Lent each year, which I know is a HUGE sacrifice for him, but I found that when I focus on doing more for God, I really do end up sacrificing....mostly time of course, but many times food is involved.  Last year I did the "diet thing" as well which meant trying to stay away from fast foods as much as possible, so I would donate the money saved to a charity.  I averaged between $25-40 per week just by trying to "wait til I got home" to eat while out for events.  I worked on "diet" during Advent as well and ended up losing almost 5 pounds during the holidays (and working full time.)  I didn't even get exercise in (which I'm not proud of, but it's the truth.)  Now for Lent I'm trying to add "exercise" to my other diet plans and hopefully we'll see what happens.

We'll be doing many of the same things as last year: Lent reading basket, watching more religious movies, crown of thorns and Stations of the Cross candles.  Familiar things help give a "rhythm to our life" and I think in the long run help all of us to grow in holiness.  Our local priest always points out that once you make that first decision to "skip church" this Sunday it makes it so much easier to skip church the next Sunday and the Sunday after that....sloth breeds slothfulness.  As I grow older and older I can really see the truth in that in all areas of life.  It takes great moral fortitude to get out of bed on those mornings when you just want to roll over and sleep the cold away.

Once again I come back to my favorite St. Thomas More quote:

The ordinary acts we practice every day at home are of more importance to the soul than their simplicity might suggest.”

Here's another "cold picture":

Jessie and Katie after "burying" themselves in January snow

As a "fun" note, life hasn't all been about drudgery.  We have had some friends over for "Game Night" where only board games or cards could be played (no video games allowed):

"Settlers of Catan" about to be played


We got a hotel room to have a Super Bowl family party at since we don't have cable and got some swimming in!  (Second time we've done this as a family in the past five years.):

Jessie and Joey in back; Libby, Katie and Anna in front.



This past weekend we even got in some face painting with face crayons.  Daddy was a sport and allowed the girls to paint him as well:
Anna "painting" Daddy's face

Jason rocking the face paint




May all of you have a blessed Lent-May it draw you closer to God!  May you all safely make it through this tough winter and may the sweetness of spring come soon!,

Always,

Stephanie




Saturday, January 10, 2015

Happy New Year, Yearly Goals and Literature Class

I have literally been trying to write a "Merry Christmas and Happy New Year" blog post for three weeks.....maybe someday I'll finish getting the Christmas pictures loaded.

For right now though I thought I would just touch base and say "Hello"...."we're alive".....we survived another Christmas with our retail shipping store....

Jason's Grandma Mercy passed away the Sunday before Christmas which makes the third out of six Christmases since we opened our store that we've had a death the week of Christmas.  Unfortunately the kids and I all became too sick to be able to go to the funeral.  We were thankfully able to attend a daily mass being offered for her at the nursing home where she had been living for the past two years yesterday.  It was wonderful to be there with a priest that had been seeing her once a week and who also administered her last sacraments to her within a few days of her death.

I'm sure that most of you have seen the different blog posts where people "pick a word" for their year.  Last year I picked "organize," but didn't tell Jason or the kids.  This year as we were all trying to recover from the icky cold virus that mutated into different forms for each person I was brainstorming ideas/goals for this new year.  I decided to pick words that started with the letter "f" since that is also the first letter for "fifteen."  I actually talked to Jason and the kids about it on New Years Day.

Our words for this year are:

Family

Fit

Focus

Frugal

and 

Fun


Obviously this blog had been all about family and frugalness.  The fit has been a goal of mine since last May.  I am at the hard part of finally feeling better from all my pregnancies, illnesses and past surgeries, but I'm in the tough spot of injuring myself when I try to work out and then gaining more weight while I heal.  I also realized that I had gotten into the bad habit of thinking bad things of myself so part of fit is also "forgiveness," which also means being kind to myself.  I actually managed to lose 4.5 pounds and 4.5 inches in the last six weeks of 2014, so I'm hoping to just slowly keep plugging away at being "fit" this year, by exercising when I can "fit" it in and just watching the calories.  The "focus" came as a two part goal.  Part of "focus" is just continuing to organize the house and all the "stuff" of being a large home schooling family.  The other part of "focus" is for both Jason and I to make some goals we have personally and professionally....these are extra things which means we have to really tighten down on our already packed schedule.....just making sure that each minute counts as we slowly plug away at meeting those goals.  Helping each other by watching the kids and clearing the calendar of extra stuff so we can get the work done we both want/need to do.   Then sometimes-well actually ALL the time-I need the reminder to have "fun" because I am such a workaholic.

I will now being teaching middle school literature at our local home school co-op besides being the Kindergarten Montessori teacher in the mornings and teaching preschool Catechesis of the Good Shepherd in the afternoons, so I'm actually not sure how much blogging I'll be getting done before May.  We have quite the reading list this semester as we focus on literature from 1800-1850 (to match with our history timeline.)

We will be reading:
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (in order to get Mark Twain in this year and again next year)
Robinson Crusoe (we didn't get to this last semester when we were in the 1700's)
The Last of the Mohicans
Northanger Abbey (our two weeks of Jane Austen since it's one of her shortest works)
Edgar Allan Poe Week
Emily Dickinson Week (she's after 1850, but that way we can focus on more 20th century poetry next year)
Longfellow Week
One week of misc American poets/short stories (still to be determined)
Uncle Tom's Cabin
House of the Seven Gables (if time)

I'm exhausted and excited just thinking about it.  Feel free to leave a comment telling me what your goals or "words for the year" are....Also, let me know what some of your favorite classic books are!  Literature is one of the things I love most about home schooling.  I've got to read so many awesome books with the kids that I missed as a kid (and probably wouldn't have gotten to reading as an adult without the "pressure" to give my kids a classical education.)

I pray that you all had a blessed Advent and Christmas Season and that 2015 brings you much peace and happiness.

May you have the sweetness of achieving your goals this coming year!

Always,

Stephanie


Sunday, October 5, 2014

Images of Summer

Since this weekend finds our temperature dipping down 30 degrees from Friday's high in the 70's and while I fight off a cold that quickly became a sinus infection, I thought I would post some pictures of the different events that I blogged about in last week's post.

Here is Poppy with her set of twins born in August.  Poppy had previously belonged to a couple other families in our area before finding her way to our small farm.  She had been bred before, but had never successfully conceived.  August is rather late to have babies so hopefully they will survive this winter.

Poppy with twin babies: late fall goats

Here is an image of one of the free range chickens that I was complaining about.  Several of them decided to start roosting on my back windshield wiper this past summer.


Free range chicken


Something new to our house this week: we added a fish aquarium as our only inside pets.  Jessie and I were at a pet store earlier this summer getting something for one of the litters of kittens when we discovered "Finding Nemo" figurines for fish tanks.  Anna had already requested a "Finding Nemo" birthday party and this then spurred on the idea of a fish tank to help transition the three littles into their own room.  Of course this fish aquarium is "bigger" than what would really need if one was just wanting a temporary aquarium.  I really miss the koi pond that I used to have at my old house.  I used to sit by it and pray a lot.  I would just relax and watch the fish swim around and listen to the running water of the small waterfall built next to it.  I honestly enjoy sitting upstairs and watching these glo fish swim around:


Glo fish under black light

Glo fish under regular aquarium light



There are eight glo fish and two clown loach fish in there though usually only Joey sees the clown fish at 6:30am when all is quiet.  They seem to just be hiding in the tiki mask.  Yes, right now, there is Ariel from "The Little Mermaid in the fish tank versus "Finding Nemo" items.

Here is a picture of the cake that Jessie made for Anna's birthday.  The figurines are actual aquarium figurines that one can buy online or at their local pet store.  Jessie made all the coral and used her new checkerboard cake pans to make a two colored checker board cake.
Anna and Katie with the "Finding Nemo" cake made by Jessie


Our local library usually has a "free movie" each month that they serve with popcorn.  Families are allowed to bring their own drinks in.  The movie this September was "Finding Nemo" so ten days after Anna's birthday she got to see the movie on a big screen!!

Anna next to the "Finding Nemo" poster at our local library


Here is the dinosaur cake that Jessie made for Katie's birthday back in August.  The figurines were bought online.  The volcano and waterfall were made out of rice krispy treats and covered with frosting:
Dinosaur cake with Volcano and waterfall
 Here's the cake "on fire" with lit candles.  The dinosaur table runner under the cake is actually an extra large nursing scrub that I cut the arms off of and slit up the sides.  I bought it at a flea market for $3 and there's no way I would have been able to get a yard or more of fabric for that price.  I also managed to buy a "Finding Nemo" scrub for $3 as well and did this for Anna's birthday party as well!  Small frugal luxury and the fabric can now be made into something else or reused for another party!

Dinosaur cake with lit candles


I mentioned previously that Joey is playing soccer at one of the local schools.  This was him about to go in for the second half of his first official high school soccer game.  Harding Stadium is considered one of the top ten high school stadiums in the United States.  He looks so small in this picture, but he is actually taller than me now and has grown about six inches in the last year alone!  Roll Red Roll!

Joey about to go in at Harding Stadium

I mentioned that one of my cousins got married on the Fourth of July this year.  Here is one of my favorite pictures from that wedding.  It looked like we color coordinated ahead of time, but we really didn't!  Both my father and Jason wore red shirts, while my step mom Malinda, cousin J.T. (wearing the cowboy hat), the kids and I were all wearing colors to match the bride's colors of pink and green.   I love how Libby just totally cheesed by putting her chin on her hand and that Anna is sitting on her beloved Grandpa Doc's shoulders.   Here we are at her gorgeous outside reception:

Family Picture at Maria and Brian's Wedding Reception



Here are the four girls playing "Princess Candyland" at the end of Libby's birthday party day.  We really like playing cards and games in this family.  You can also see one of our "reusable" birthday hats that the the special birthday person gets to wear on their party day.

The 4 girls playing "Candyland"

Here is the front flower bed from earlier this summer.  These hostas plants are actually some transplants from our old house that have managed to survive the past 7 years of chickens pecking and goats eating them and mail people running them over.  Hoping they last at least seven more and that I can get some of them divided next summer to plant in different parts of the farm.


Summer flowers



Wishing you a few more warm days this fall!!

From the Sweetness of our couch to yours,

Stephanie